Read This: Beautiful Ruins

Jess Walter
photo: Hannah Assouline

Short, shameful confession: In mid-June, I took my Flip camera to the HarperCollins offices and recorded nearly a half-hour of conversation with Jess Walter about his new novel, Beautiful Ruins. It was a really good interview, which is why I’m embarrassed to say that earlier this week, I accidentally deleted it from the Flip’s hard drive before I had transferred it to my computer. (It’s even more frustrating than it sounds, because I was trying to get out of a delete menu that had inadvertently opened, so I could make the transfer.) I tried taking it to a data recovery specialist, but they were unable to pull the file back from the abyss…

But a lot of the things we touched upon in that interview are connected to the reasons that you really ought to read Beautiful Ruins, starting with the fact that it’s a wonderful story, unlike anything Walter has ever done before. In fact, we started out by talking a little bit about how he’d gotten his first book deal for a nonfiction book about the Ruby Ridge standoff, which he had covered for the Spokane newspaper. He could’ve built up a portfolio of true crime books after that, but instead (after co-authoring Christopher Darden’s memoir) he segued into writing crime fiction, winning an Edgar for his third novel, Citizen Vince. The novel after that, The Zero, had its noirish elements, but was quickly noticed fo